Pound and Pumpkin had just returned home from school for the day. The two of them went to the table as usual to do their homework. Before she started though, Pumpkin gave her dad a piece of paper from her teacher.
When she was done she was about to grab Tiger Lily and go up to her room, but she was stopped.
“Pumpkin,” said her dad, “come here for a second. I want to see something.”
“Okay,” she replied. “What’s up?”
“Look at your mother and read what she’s holding.”
Pumpkin shrugged, thinking she was being set up for a joke. She remembered when she had fallen for spelling “ICUP” and all her classmates nearby had cracked up.
Her mother was about fifteen feet away, holding up a piece of paper with big written letters.
She squinted a bit, pushing her head forward. “Pumpkin and Pound,” she read. “Now what?”
Pumpkin was a little unnerved. Both her parents were looking at her with pity. “WHAT? Why are you looking at me like that for?”
Her mother went to stand next to her father. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s sit down.”
Pumpkin shrugged again as they all took a seat.
“Pumpkin… we saw the note from your teacher and-”
“I didn’t do anything!” Pumpkin said strongly. “I haven’t gotten in any trouble all week.”
Carrot nodded. “You’re right. You’re not in trouble.”
“So what was on the note?”
“Your teacher observed that when reading the blackboard that you’re always squinting.”
“Squinting,” he repeated. He did it himself to give her a demonstration. “Like this, see?”
Pumpkin slowly rolled her eyes, trying to see the point of all this. Why would her teacher bother to write a note just to tell them that? “Okay, so I, um, squink-er, squint when I’m reading. Sometimes it’s hard to read the blackboard. What’s the big deal?”
“The big deal,” said Cup, “is that you shouldn’t need to do that to read the chalkboard.”
Pumpkin felt so confused. “So… what? She wants me to stop doing that?”
Cup shook her head. “That’s not the point.”
“Then what IS?”
“The point is that if you’re squinting to read something a short distance away it likely means you’re a little nearsighted.”
Pumpkin stared blankly back at them. “And that means…”
“It means exactly what it sounds like. Your sight is more focused on things closer to you.”
Pumpkin shook her head. “What sense does that make? Isn’t that how it is for everyone? The farther away something is the harder it is to see.”
Carrot took a steadying breath, trying to think of how best to explain it. “Well, the opposite of nearsighted is farsighted. Ponies with that can see things better that are far away than what’s closer to them. Nearsighted or farsighted, it means that your eyes aren’t working properly.”
Now Pumpkin understood, and her heart skipped a beat. “N-not working properly?”
“Yes. It’s true that the further away something is the harder it becomes to see things clearly, but what being nearsighted means specifically is that things an average pony would see clearly are still blurry.”
“So… so what do I do?”
“Well, first things first we have to set up an appointment with an eye doctor, so he can tell us if you actually are nearsighted. It’s not like you’re going blind or anything. Worst comes to worst they’ll prescribe you some glasses to help you see better.”
That sounded fine to her. The appointment was made, and a few days later they were in the office. Just to be absolutely safe they brought Pound with them to be checked as well. She waited her turn patiently until she was called in.
A little nervous she asked Pound to go first, just so she could see what the process was like. Pound, thankfully, had clear sight. Not a perfect 20/20, but he was in the average range for his age.
The doctor checked out her eyes next. She sat down in a chair they provided, and he asked her to read off letters that got progressively smaller as they went down the rows.
The first two rows weren’t that bad, but she had no idea if she was reading anything else right. Letters seemed to have extra lines, or look like different letters entirely.
After a while he placed a device in front of her eyes with a bunch of lenses that could be rotated. He had her put her eyes up to it.
He flipped back and forth between varying strength lenses, and the chart grew clearer and clearer as she told him which ones worked better.
When he finished writing things down on the clipboard he set it down and said, “Okay, Pumpkin. From what I can see you are a little nearsighted, but it’s pretty mild. I’ve wrote down your prescription for a set of glasses. At this point in time they only need to be worn for reading things at a distance. It’s not at the point where you have to wear them all the time. Unless, of course, you want to. That’s all up to you.
“Even if you’re not planning to wear them all the time I’d like you to wear them for at least a whole day to be sure your prescription is correct. Glasses that are the wrong strength can cause headaches and worsen your vision. That’s why you need to test them out.”
“Okay,” Pumpkin replied.
She was taken to another room, where the doctor gave the prescription to the mare there. “Okay,” said the mare, gesturing behind her. “Why don’t you pick out some frames you like?”
Pumpkin’s eyes lit up at the variety, and she began picking various sets up with her horn, staring at them carefully before putting them back down.
Pound was bored. He walked around as Pumpkin went crazy going through frames. Why did he even have to be here? It wasn’t like his eyes were bad. He felt he should just grab his dad and go home. He rolled his eyes. His parents would just tell him to be patient. With nothing better to do he went to an open area and unfurled his wings, practicing his exercises.
After what felt like an eternity to the colt his sister finally picked a frame she liked. It was red, with a simple style. He thought they could leave now, but to his frustration he had to wait again while the unicorn carved the lenses out for the glasses right then and there. With nothing else to do he went back to practicing.
Jumping into the air he fluttered his wings hard, but he landed back on his hooves a few seconds later. He repeated this over and over, each time hoping that would be the time he could stay up. He felt so far behind his classmates.
Out of the twenty or so pegasi none of them were experts or natural fliers like Rainbow Dash had been. Only two of them were good fliers, able to rise up and down or go in a straight line. All the others in his class were only a step or two above him. They had enough strength to hover in the air for a while, but couldn’t rise up more than a few extra feet before it tired them out.
He was the odd one out. He couldn’t even hover for more than a second or two. It stunk so much. He followed all his directions. Was he doing something wrong? Was he just defective? He looked over at Pumpkin, and he glared at her.
“She’s just SO perfect,” he said under his breath. “Isn’t she? Pumpkin can show off how great she is whenever she wants.” He turned his head back. “These stupid wings are useless!”
He was silently fuming by the time Pumpkins glasses were finished.
Pumpkin put on her new pair of glasses, posing like a model. “What do you think?”
“They look very good on you,” said Carrot.
“I agree. You made a good choice,” said Cup.
“If you like looking like a nerd,” Pound growled.
Pumpkin’s glee faded. “What’s your problem?”
“I’m bored!” he said sharply. “Can we go now?”
Carrot sighed. “Fine.”
Cup payed for the glasses, and the four of them left.
Pound tromped ahead of the group, not wanting to wait for them.
“Oh, great,” Pumpkin said sarcastically. “Pound’s in another one of his moods.”
Pound spun around. “Shut it, ugly!”
“Why don’t you make me, stupid?”
Cup and Carrot jumped into action, getting between the two. “That’s enough!” Carrot said sharply. “Knock it off, the both of you!”
“I was happy with my new glasses, but he had to ruin it!” She pointed her hoof at him.
“Well, you ruin everything, so I guess we’re even!” Pound said.
Carrot smacked a hoof to the side of his head. “Oh, boy. I don’t want this day to go sour.” He walked over to Pound, picking up the colt and setting him on his back. “Cup, why don’t you walk around for a little while? I’ll take Pound home so these two don’t fight.”
“Sounds good,” said Cup Cake.
As Carrot trotted along the path he said, “Is something wrong, Pound?”
“No!” he said sharply. “You dragged me out there when I didn’t even have any problems with my eyes. I wish I could have just stayed home with Auntie Pinkie.”
Carrot let out a thoughtful “Hmm…” He wasn’t sure Pound was being truthful. It was certainly true that bored kids can become unruly, but was that all? While Pumpkin had been picking out her frames he had seen Pound practicing flying. He had seen the little guy fail so many times. It had to grate on his nerves that he couldn’t fly while Pumpkin could use her magic. Pound was used to being the superior one, the one always charging ahead and puffed up with youthful pride.
“It bothers you, doesn’t it?” he asked. “That your sister can use her horn but you can’t use your wings yet?”
Pound stiffened. He hopped off Carrot’s back, trotting ahead of his father. “I can walk myself,” he said angrily. “I just wanna go home! Champ is waiting for me.”
Bullseye! Carrot knew he had hit the nail on the head. He found himself at a loss for the right words to say. They had asked Twilight to speak to Pumpkin about magic because they didn’t know about it themselves. Similarly, he couldn’t really speak to Pound about flying and wings besides what he had observed of others. He had no personal experience with flight.
What should he say? "Don’t worry?" "It will happen when you’re ready?" "You’re still great just as you are?" It would just come off as empty comfort and likely make Pound angrier. He could always ask Rainbow Dash to speak to him, but Pound was already in magic kindergarten with a teacher who specialized in flight, so it felt like a waste of time. More than likely his wings just hadn’t grown in enough to allow for flight.
He let out a sigh, wishing he could do more. Pound’s frustration was so obvious, and the only way to alleviate it was something he couldn’t control. For now, the only thing he could do was take Pound to his dog and hope he cheered up.
When they arrived home Pound disappeared into his room, slamming the door behind him. He came out a minute later, holding Champ’s leash. “I’m taking him for a walk,” he said, scowling, walking out the front door with the end of the leash tied around his hoof.
Carrot sat down at one of the booths, his head in his hooves. What was he supposed to do? If he couldn’t make Pound fly was there something else he could do to cheer the colt up? Bake him a cake? Get him something from the toy store?
He sighed again. He could just imagine Pumpkin’s reaction. "Pound was being a total brat, and he gets a present? Are you kidding me?"
Having twins wasn’t easy. Give extra to one, and the other would always complain they were being shorted. They always had to try to split everything down the middle and give equally to both their children.
A tear came down his eye. That mindset was what was causing Pound’s stress. The two of them were usually equal, but now Pumpkin was pulling ahead of him, and it was threatening to him. He had heard Pound say on numerous occasions that he feared Pumpkin would stop viewing him as her hero whenever someone else, or Pumpkin herself, saved her. Pumpkin would always insist he couldn’t be replaced, but every time Pumpkin scored a point Pound would feel inferior.
Pound was a little macho colt that always wanted to be the center of attention. Whenever he wasn’t that usually set him off. Carrot tried to think back to his own childhood. Had he been the same way? Unlike Pound he had been an only child, so there had been no siblings he had to protect.
What had first inspired that behavior? Pumpkin was usually cool and rational, while Pound was impulsive and hotheaded. It wasn’t surprising that they had different temperaments. They were their own ponies, after all. But clearly Pound was lacking something.
His stomach began to burn as he wondered whether he and Cup had caused him to turn out that way. Up until the twins had begun going to school the kids were alone during the day, as he, Cup, and Pinkie had to manage the shop. Since the twins always had a playmate available they thought the twins were fine. After the shop closed down for the day and the clean-up was done they’d make dinner and be a family until it was the kids bed time.
Maybe it just wasn’t enough. Thinking on it harder he thought that maybe Pound needed some more positive reinforcement in his life. His biggest issue seemed to be a lack of confidence, which was why he felt so threatened whenever he thought he was being overshadowed.
He wondered whether it was too late to fix things. That was a scary thought for him. He wanted Pound to be confident in himself without assigning his self-worth to his deeds. He knew he needed to speak with Cup about this.
Cup and Pumpkin returned before Pound did. Pumpkin looked to be in better spirits, and going by the chocolate stain on her mouth it wasn’t hard to figure out why.
“Pound’s out walking Champ,” he said. “He’s just frustrated he hasn’t started flying yet.”
Pumpkin rolled her eyes. “I wish he would stop taking things out on me,” she said, annoyed. “It’s not my fault.”
“I know, Pumpkin,” said Cup, rubbing her head. “But according to him he’s behind all his classmates, so I don’t really think it has anything to do with you.”
“Well, whatever. Let him go for his walk, and hopefully when he comes back he’ll be in a better mood.”
“I hope so,” said Carrot.
Pumpkin trotted towards the stairs, trilling out, “Tiger Lily! Here, girl!” She heard the familiar meow coming to meet her. “There you are!” Her horn lighting up she set the cat on her back. “We should go outside too!”
Pumpkin opened the front door, going to the small tree near their house and sitting down in the shade. “It’s a beautiful day out, isn’t it?”
As she pet Tiger Lily she looked around with her new glasses. Did they really make a difference? She lifted her hoof up, pushing her glasses away from her eyes. While she could still make out ponies, houses, and the like in the distance they grew a little blurrier. She let them fall back down, and like magic they grew clearer.
“Hmm…” Pumpkin did this a few more times. She had had no idea there was anything wrong with her eyes. She just thought that everyone saw like this.
She paused in her petting. How were her classmates going to react when she came in with glasses? Would they laugh at her and make fun of her? She didn’t like the thought of that.
She sighed. It didn’t matter if they did. Her parents had spent money on getting her glasses, and they would expect her to wear them to class. And it would be nice if she wasn’t always struggling to read the blackboard.
Inside Carrot was sitting down with Cup Cake and talking with her about his thoughts.
“So that’s what you think is going on, huh?” asked Cup.
Carrot nodded. “Yeah. I really do think we need to help give Pound more confidence. It seems to be the prevailing factor in every one of his temper tantrums.”
“Mmm. You’ve got a point there. I think we should talk with him about this.”
“When he comes back from his walk?”
She shook her head. “Boyish pride, remember? Before we put them to bed we tell Pound we want to talk with him when Pumpkin goes to sleep. It’ll grab his attention. If it’s just him he’ll be more likely to drop his guard and be real than if he decides to put up a front in front of his sister.”
Carrot rolled his eyes. “Right, right. I never thought it would be so complicated to have twins.”
Cup got out of her seat and walked toward him, giving him a kiss. “Well, it’s because it’s complicated that it has to be done. That’s our job as parents, is it not?”
“Oh, I’m not saying I regret any of it.” He kissed her back. “I think having kids was the best decision of our lives, even if it’s hectic sometimes.”
“I know, sweetheart.” She smiled tenderly at him. “And I’m so glad I had them with you.”
He gazed lovingly back at her. “Right back at you.” The two of them began to make-out, taking advantage of a rare moment to be alone with one another and be romantic.
Pound was walking along, letting Champ direct where they were going. His stomach felt like it was in knots. He didn’t want to think about anything at all. Every time an image popped up in his mind he pushed it away to embrace a blissful nothing.
It didn’t work forever. Negative thoughts began creeping up in his mind. ‘I’m just a loser. I can’t do the things any normal pegasus can do…. Pumpkin is so much better than me at everything. It’s not fair…. Mom and Dad are so much prouder of her than me. They probably love Pumpkin much more than me because she’s actually talented…. One day they’ll probably just ignore me or kick me out of the house so they can keep their amazing kid and get rid of the one that can’t do anything right.’
His heart grew heavy, his feelings about to spill over. He looked around, and saw he was near the park. He found a bush to hide under, quietly crying as he hugged Champ to him.
“Y-you’re the only one who understands me. Nobody saw how special you were, but now look at you. Your leg is getting better all the time.”
His heart began racing. Even Champ was excelling faster than him. Soon everyone would leave him behind.
He clenched his eyes tight. “P-please! Please! Don’t leave me! Don’t ever leave me!”
Champ licked his face, letting out a little bark.
He looked the dog in the eyes, and he could see understanding there. Champ really did understand his pain. Pound let out a heavy breath. “Thank you.”
He sniffed. “Well… I promised Fluttershy that I would make you amazing. Even if I’m always gonna suck I can at least keep helping you. At least that’s something I can do.”
The dog let out a mournful whimper, putting a paw on Pound’s chest.
“Don’t worry about me, Champ.” He looked away slightly. “I’ll be fine. Maybe…”
Pinkie came downstairs, humming to herself. She was in the mood for some cupcakes. As she approached the swing door she heard a little commotion. Wondering if something was wrong she pushed it open, and she giggled at the Cakes display of affection.
Hearing the squeak of the door the two broke apart, each of them panting and blushing heavily.
“Aww, love is in the air,” Pinkie said with a little hop.
The both of them just stood there, their faces beet red, as Pinkie grabbed some treats. She shoved a cookie in her mouth. “Oh, font mine mm,” she mumbled out, her mouth full. She swallowed. “Just pretend I was never here.”
It was too late for that. The moment was over. Getting some degree of dignity back Cup Cake called her back over as she was about to leave.
“What’s up?” she said, turning around.
“Please sit down. Given that you spend a lot of time with the twins this involves you too.”
Pinkie grew serious. “Is something wrong with them?” she asked as she took a seat.
Cup and Carrot explained their thoughts about Pound’s behavior.
“So you want me to be there when you talk to him?” she asked when they were finished.
“Well, three may be a bit much,” said Carrot. “I think you should just follow along our lead. We can’t make it seem like Pound is receiving favoritism, or that’s just going to cause the same issue for Pumpkin. However, the fact remains that Pound is needier than Pumpkin, and thus needs a little more care. We need to strike a good balance of taking care of his needs without making it seem like he’s superior.”
Pinkie slowly nodded her head a few times. “I gotcha. The whole twin thing makes equality a necessity to avoid fights. I’ll do what I can to help both of them.”
“Thank you, Pinkie.”
She beamed. “No problem. Things are the best when everybody is smiling.”
Pound returned a little while later, his emotions under control now. He walked upstairs to his room, seeing Pumpkin on her bed reading a book.
He grabbed the towel he kept by the door and wiped down Champ’s paws before allowing the dog to jump on his bed.
Pumpkin had paused in her reading when Pound had come. She was waiting to see what he would do.
He climbed up on his bed too. “Hey, Pumpkin,” he said. “You have a message.”
She put her book down. “A message?”
“Yeah. I ran into Princess Twilight on the way home. She said that she wants you to come over tomorrow.”
Pumpkin’s interest soared. She sat up, moving to the edge of her bed. “She does? What for?”
“She said she’s having a little party and wants you to come.”
“Wow. That sounds so cool! When should we be there?”
Pound leaned back, putting his hooves behind his head. “Oh, I’m not invited.”
Pumpkin looked confused. “What? Why not? That doesn’t seem like her.”
Pound smirked at her. “Because it’s a party that’s only for giant nerds.” He cracked up as Pumpkin glared at him.
“Ha ha ha!” Pumpkin replied sarcastically. “You’re so hilarious!”
“Thank you. I try.”
Pumpkin snorted, opting to ignore him as she grabbed her book and began reading again.
“So what book is that? ‘The nerd’s guide to being a nerd?’”
Pumpkin’s cheeks puffed out, and she took a deep, slow breath. ‘Just ignore him,’ she thought, but though she was looking at her book she wasn’t taking in a word. ‘He’ll get bored soon.’
Pound didn’t give up, though. He kept going, determinedly trying to get a reaction out of her. Pumpkin was just as determined not to do so.
He was slowly wearing away her patience, and she knew that she should just leave and go read somewhere else, but she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of letting him know that he was getting on her nerves.
“Nerd… nerd… nerd… nerd… nerd… nerd…” He dispensed with trying to be creative, and just took to repeating the word over and over, feeling immense satisfaction from seeing her expressions.
Pumpkin bit her lip, straining to keep her mouth shut. She didn’t want him to win, but the endless repetition eroded the last of her self-restraint. She hopped up, screaming, “WILL YOU JUST SHUT UP ALREADY?”
Pound’s grin grew even wider. He had broken her. He mentally checked off his victory.
“WHY DON’T YOU GROW UP AND GET A LIFE, YOU STUPID, PATHETIC, FLIGHTLESS LOSER!”
Pound’s smug expression faded immediately, and he grew unnaturally still, his breath stopping for a few seconds. His mind fell right back into the state he had been before, of feeling inferior to everyone around him. His eyes filled up with tears, and he ran out of the room sobbing hysterically.
Champ let out a bark as he chased Pound out of the room. Champ’s barks and Pound’s crying grew quieter until she couldn’t hear either anymore.
Pumpkin took several deep breaths, reveling in the sudden peace and quiet. She felt like she was being stared at. She gazed up to see Pinkie looking at her, her eyes narrowed and disapproval clear on her features.
Any satisfaction she felt vanished. She let out another heavy breath. “I know!” she said before Pinkie could say anything. “I shouldn’t have said it. But Pound’s been bothering me ever since he came home. I just lost my temper.”
Pinkie walked in. “I understand that, but if you felt that way you should have come to tell one of us what he was doing. And I guess the reason you DIDN’T do that is because of pride, right? You just couldn’t bear to be the one to give in. Am I wrong?”
Pumpkin looked away. “No…” She let out a little moan. “It’s not fair! Now you’re gonna punish me and Pound is gonna get off without getting in trouble just because I made him cry.”
“You’re wrong,” Pinkie replied. “I’m not going to do anything at all to you. I’m just gonna let you punish yourself. Now I have to go chase after your brother.”
Pumpkin’s brow furrowed as Pinkie left. “Punish myself? What does that mean?”